Q. What are some of the most challenging questions or concerns you hear from our customers that they're facing right now about operating their building or managing their energy?
A. Customers are trying to balance their people and running whatever their business or operation does, while also caring about energy. In this environment where the supply chain is crazy and there's not an end in sight, I think customers are really trying to figure out, “how do I, in the short, medium and long term, do the right thing?”
Customers are working to figure out their ESG goals and really focusing on making the world a better place, while also asking questions like:
- What do I need to do today to be effective?
- What does my building need?
- What do my employees need?
- Do I bring people back into a building as I run my operation?
- As t think about the process that I'm creating or growing or improving, what are my needs for today? What are my medium, or longer-term goals from an ESG perspective? How do I reconcile my needs for today and my longer-term goals?
Many companies out there are trying to think this through from a financial perspective, regarding who they partner with and just how to make that work.
Q. What are some common misconceptions in the market today around improving the resiliency of your operation or reducing your energy or carbon footprint or maybe even around reducing operational costs?
A. I think the biggest misconception is that those three things — resiliency, carbon footprint reduction and operational cost reduction — are mutually exclusive. There’s a misconception that you can focus on reliability and resiliency, but by doing that, you’re going to sacrifice improving energy emissions or you’re going to sacrifice operational costs.
We’ve evolved so much as an industry. Our equipment has evolved, how we service the equipment has evolved, how we can see what's happening and how equipment interacts with other equipment has also evolved.
And our equipment has evolved so much that there are solutions that can really help a business do all three of the things we’re focused on here: increase reliability, reduce energy emissions and lower operating costs. It may be something that requires some upfront capital. It may be something that requires a bigger investment here or there, but if that's the fundamental goal, I think there's a way to get there.
Q. What do you think that Trane brings to the table that no one else can or does?
A. We have a depth of experience, which is a beautiful thing. It's a depth of experience and expertise when it comes to our people. It’s tremendous that there are so many people I've had the opportunity to engage and interact with who have 20, 25, 30 years in this business and just feel so deeply about this industry and how the industry evolves. As a result of that, we have a phenomenal, significant installed base in North America and beyond.
In summary, Trane brings together three valuable factors:
- We've got a massive installed base with customers who engage with us and believe in us and really like our approach and products.
- We have people who offer deep expertise perspective and are passionate about the industry and about moving the industry forward in a sustainable way.
- And, we have a culture that rewards innovation and an innovative spirit.
I think that combination of things is just unstoppable.
Q. How does building and energy data drive customer outcomes?
A. Buildings are one of the most impactful environmental factors when it comes to how and how much energy is used. I think at this point there are customers on the maturity cycle that are thinking in depth about this.
There are locations — cities such as New York and states such as California — that are really digging in deep and requiring building and energy data to be understood. They are really “putting their money where their mouth is” as far as taking some leaps on what should be done and how it should be done to really reduce energy usage and make some changes.
But frankly, I don't think building and energy data currently drives customer outcomes nearly as much as it will within the next couple of years. I think we're not quite at that tipping point yet, but we're getting close. I think we'll see a lot more of it happen. What's important now is to start gathering the data and thinking about it and making decisions about how we evolve things moving forward.
Q. If there's one baseline, every customer should understand about their building, what is it and why?
A. Everyone should understand what their energy usage is, not just on a total or macro basis, but every hour during the day. One of the solutions we offer that I'm a huge fan of and which I think is underutilized is thermal energy storage. What makes it so interesting is that you make ice at night when the power is typically really, really cheap and fewer people need it.
Some people say, “Wait a second, Amber, you're still using electricity?” The reality is that great big power plants need to be operating at base load at all times. So, when you are utilizing the energy that is produced during off-peak hours, you’re not taking anything away from anyone and it can be very inexpensive. You’re making ice and storing it. Then, during the day when you need cooling when power is typically in higher demand and therefore more expensive, you can use that stored energy instead of buying expensive on-peak energy.
Thermal energy storage allows you to use this “thermal battery,” this physical battery in the form of ice, which is a beautiful thing. It's cost-effective, it's energy-efficient. Compare that to the ecological impacts of lithium-ion batteries where the technology hasn't yet hit the tipping point and it’s clear that thermal energy storage is just a great solution.
Q. What's the most important thing customers should consider when they're looking to reduce their carbon footprint?
A. Customers need to understand their total business impact from a carbon perspective. They need to think through the most effective and efficient places to start reducing their carbon footprint. It's sort of like recycling, we all have a carbon footprint and sometimes you can wonder, “is recycling this one aluminum can really going to make a difference?”
Yes, it is going to make a difference in the long term, although it might seem like a small thing.
If I think about an oil and gas customer or someone in the apparel industry for example, the carbon footprint of what they're doing on any given day is massive. And they can still have an impact on their built environment to start to reduce that carbon footprint. So, it’s important to understand the total picture and then just start small.
Q. What's your philosophy when it comes to helping customers achieve their goals?
A. My philosophy is to listen to customers in multiple ways. It’s not just one individual per customer, either. Everyone within a company has their own perspective and brings their own agenda to a company.
My philosophy is to deeply understand a customer’s needs and that requires asking a lot of big, open-ended questions. In some cases, we look at their annual report, their ESG reports and their 10-K. These materials all provide clues regarding what’s important to the customer. We also identify the decision-maker and what they will be measured on. What keeps them up at night, what's concerning them?
So, my approach is to do as much research ahead of time as possible, listen to customers and ask those open-ended questions. I don't go in with a deeper agenda of “I am going to sell you this product or I am going to sell you the solution.”
It's about starting with the customer in mind and creating a relationship and a partnership based on a shared understanding of what they're trying to achieve. Then we share Trane’s philosophy about where we come from and how we can work together to help them reach their goals...
Q. If there's one service that every customer should be thinking about right now, what is it and why?
A. I don't think there is one service that is right for every customer. I think what customers should be thinking about right now is what they value, what is important to them, what are they trying to accomplish.
It’s really about a service model. What capital assets do they want to own and how will they maintain those assets? Where do they want to have a utility that they plug into for something?
When it comes to service, I like to think of a travel example. When I need to get from point A to B, I might drive myself. I love driving. I also love to be driven. Ultimately, what I really want is to get from point A to point B in relative comfort.
And if that means me driving myself, fantastic. If I need to use that travel time to accomplish other work, it may make more sense for me to be driven.
I think that's something that customers need to think about. In some cases, it makes perfect sense for them to handle their building and energy services because it plugs beautifully into everything else that they're trying to do and what they feel is their core expertise.
But in this environment, where finding skilled workers and getting them to show up on a regular basis has gotten so challenging, it may make sense to have a regular energy service partner I can count on.
We want to focus on what is core and important to us. I want to spend my time, effort and energy doing what really is the best and highest use of my time. Identifying and calling up a repair technician to deal with XYZ is not that. It may make sense to collaborate with an energy service partner I can count on to address whatever problem comes up for me.
So, I think the one service needed could be different for every customer and in every industry. But I think that we're going to see the customized service model explode because people want to focus on the best and highest use of their team and their resources. And they should.
Trane is a strategic business of Trane Technologies, a global climate innovator. Trane Technologies brings bold thinking to our customers to advance the conversation on sustainability and achieve more through sustainable climate solutions for buildings, homes, and transportation. We're leading the way to a better future, and we boldly go.